Church Mouse quaked somewhat upon hearing about a bark in Canon Pyon, but no, happily it was only Bach’s Suites 1-3 being played by Orlando Jopling on Saturday October 9th. An audience of about 100 people came to hear the renowned cellist and conductor, including yours truly. And what an evening it was! Orlando studied with many well-known teachers including Raphael Wallfisch and took masterclasses with Paul Tortelier among others. He has worked with  the great UK orchestras including the LSO and Royal Philharmonic, chamber groups such as the London Sinfonietta and conductors like Sir Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink and Sir Simon Rattle. He has also travelled internationally to give recitals and contributed to many film scores including Star Wars. MiQP was fortunate, indeed, to become part of Orlando’s Cello Pilgrimage, during which, for the last 15 years, he has undertaken to give concerts in remote and beautiful churches all around the country to raise money for their upkeep.

The setting for this concert was the lovely medieval church of  St. Lawrence in Canon Pyon. The candlelit performance was truly atmospheric with Orlando playing entirely from memory, a feat which C. Mouse found to be greatly inspiring, especially as the cello is CM’s favourite instrument.

Often heard and now very well-known, particularly the Prelude from Suite No. 1, these pieces were very little known until Pablo Casals discovered them in a second hand shop in the late C19th, although he didn’t record them until 1936.

Orlando explained that the cello was the electric violin of its time, the bass member of the violin family, loud and modern, rapidly replacing the bass viola da gamba as a solo instrument at the time Bach was writing, although there seems to be some doubt about the exact type of instrument that first played these pieces.   Each Suite starts with a Prelude and is followed by a sequence of short dances, the last being a Gigue, a medieval name for a bowed string instrument, from which the modern German word Geige (violin) is derived. It was easy to visualise, in one’s mind’s eye, early C18th ladies and their partners tripping away in a lively Courante or Allemande or dancing a more stately Sarabande, which was actually banned in its original form for its fast and loose rhythms and obscenity. The Gavotte, it seems, was named after the Gavot people of South East France and the Bouree still survives to this day in the Auvergne, providing a very direct link with the period when the Suites were composed.

Orlando’s performance was much enjoyed by the audience, and there were a number of emails and telephone calls afterwards to record thanks.

Churchwarden Lydia Davies and her team did a wonderful job of lighting the path to the church, providing refreshments and generally looking after the comfort of all. Thanks were given to them as well as the usual MiQP team, who can now competently process card payments, provided that there is sufficient signal!

Church Mouse

Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust